Yesterday, celebrity couple Billy Crawford and Coleen Garcia broke their silence on their controversial pre-wedding photo-shoot in Ethiopia that has been called “racist” by some of its critics.
According to a joint statement sent to ABS-CBN, the network where the two TV hosts are under, Billy said that they did not intend to disrespect any culture but that they understand where critics are coming from. “And looking at it from their perspective, we do still see where they are coming from. Completely. It might not even be about the photos per se, but more on how it comes across and what it could represent,” (Billy) he said. “We do apologize for how it might have translated and we’re sorry again to those we have offended,” Crawford said.
(Billy )He also gave a little context to the idea behind the photos. According to the statement, the couple and the team that produced the photos did the shoot in partnership with Ethiopian Airlines. “We were invited and sponsored by Ethiopian Airlines to do our shoot there for their tourism and capture their natural environment because we were told that tourism helps their economy,” the statement reads. “We had a local guide present throughout the entire duration of the shoot and leisure time in Ethiopia.” Crawford also said that it was the local guide that suggested they include the priest of Lalibela in one of the controversial shoot layouts and that the children in another photo that raised eyebrows were not forced to join the shoot. “The kids found [the photo shoot] cool (who were already there) and they really wanted to be a part of the photo so they kept coming into the frame until Only [the photographer] decided to just include them.”
Crawford said that a local tried making the kids go away and said that they were bothering the shoot, but the team assured it was ok with them and had the kids stay instead. Crawford, who is half American and grew up in the United States ended the statement by saying that he too has experienced racism and would not intend for others to experience it too. “I grew up in a very diverse city (Roosevelt Island), and had experienced bullying and racism in my youth because of my being ‘an Asian.’ Trust me, we meant no harm,” he wrote.
The pre-wedding photo shoot he had with his fiance Garcia struck a lot of people’s nerves over the weekend, with many calling it “racist” and accusing them of using Ethiopians as “props.” Here is a post from Maegan Rodriguez@maegaaan_ says “why is no one talking about coleen garcia and billy crawford’s prenup shoot they literally used Ethiopian locals as ...props? idek if thats the word pero girl bakit ano gusto nila iparating”. Another from erika nicole@noitsairwrecka saying “Ako lang ba yung bothered sa prenup photoshoot ni Coleen and Billy? How they posed in their glamorous clothes and used the Ethiopian locals as props? It’s like showing the stark contrast of the rich from the poor.”
The media in the Philippines is notorious for its inappropriate depictions of race. Just last month, the TV show Bagani was accused of brown facing their light-skinned actors to look like pre-colonial Filipinos. The entertainment industry is mostly made up of mestizo (mixed-race) celebrities just like Crawford and Garcia, who is half Spanish.
The photos were initially posted online and published in the Metro Magazine website as an “exclusive,” but the article has since been taken down. Metro Magazine is owned by ABS-CBN, the same network that airs Bagani.
However, Oly Ruiz of Metro Photo, the wedding photography company behind the shoot, said that the photos should not be interpreted as racist because they were just trying to highlight the beauty of the place. He also said that those who think the locals were being used as props need to check if they themselves are being racist.
“We talked to these people and even asked permission. It’s actually offensive for people to interpret them as props,” he said. “Why slaves? Because they are Africans? Should we have made them wear gowns too? These people are beautiful, how they are shot is how they are in real life, if you see them as slaves then I feel bad for you.”
MJ Felipe posted the actual message of Billy on his personal account @mjfelipe this what he posted “READ: Here’s the official statement of Billy Crawford and Coleen Garcia re their pre-nup photos being tagged as “racist”.”
Yeah its unfortunate how it was taken out of context. Its far from what we intended. We were invited and sponsored by Ethiopian Airlines to do our shoot there for their tourism and capture their natural environment because we were told that tourism helps their economy. That’s why we were in Ethiopia. This isn’t our final “official” prenup actually, as that will be more personal and is set here in the Philippines. We had a local guide present throughout the entire duration of the shoot and leisure time in Ethiopia. He took us around and made suggestions for the shoot, such as including the priests of Lalibela in our photos because they wanted people to see.
We based our layouts off of some of their suggestions. The locals were so kind, warm and welcoming, and they love us some items of clothing to add to our shoot, for which they showed so much support. Yung shot with the kids, actually patapos na kaming magshoot noon na kaming dalawa lang and we just needed to get a few shots in, but naaliw yung kids (who were already there) and they really wanted to be a part of the photo so they kept coming into the frame habggabg sa sinama na nina Oly.
In fact, may dumating pa nalocal who was scolding them and shooing them away kasi abala daw sa shoot, but we felt differently and natuwa din naman kami sa mga bata kaya we told the man na it’s okay, and we let them be a part of the photo despite it not being part of the plan, and we even showed the photos to them after. We never forced anyone nor wanted to disrespect any race or culture. People in the Philippines felt disrespected and offended, bu being there was completely different feeling. May mga nagsasabi na bihis na bihis kami, but we did go there pre-styled for a fashion shoot, and everything else followed spontaneously.
We have so photos of the two of us, mga 95% ng photos, and there were two or three that offended people and were singled out, so the team took them down right away because that is not our intention. We’ve had the photos for months and a lot of people have seen them prior to their release. Every time we look at the photos, we remember how we got to interact with the locals while we were there, and it’s something truly memorable for all of us, including the team.
We had so many positive encounters, kaya siguro hindi agad pumasok sa isip namin. The children weren’t sad and oppressed, they were so friendly and curious. When we looked at the photos, we didn’t see slavery or racism at all, lalo na when you take all the rest of the photos into consideration. Iba yung perspective naming.
There was more to it than that, and madala lang siguro kaming lahat sa overall experience which really was something unique. It’s sad that the tendency is to lump to all the rest of the photos into consideration. Iba yung perspective naming. There was more to it than that, and nadala lang siguro kaming lahat sa overall experience which really was something unique. It’s sad that the tendency is to jump to conclusions, but we understand din kasi nga they were not there to witness everything. And looking at it from their perspective, we do still see where they are coming from.
Completely. It might not even be about the photos per se, but more on how it comes across and what it could represent. Being public figures, ditto kami nagkulang and we admit we could have done better. Kaya we do apologize for how it might have translated, and we’re sorry again to those we have offended. I grew up in a very diverse city (Roosevelt Island), and had experienced bullying and racism in my youth because of my being “an Asian”. Trust me, we meant no harm.”